Slender skimmer (Orthetrum sabina)

Slender skimmer
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Slender skimmer fact file

Slender skimmer description

GenusOrthetrum (1)

The slender skimmer (Orthetrum sabina) is a striking green to greyish-yellow dragonfly with black markings (3). The sides of the thorax and abdomen are striped with black, and the abdomen is distinctly swollen towards the base. A small dark spot is present at the base of the hindwing (4).

Males and female slender skimmers are very similar in appearance (4).

The larvae of the slender skimmer reach a total length of 19 to 21 millimetres and have spines in the middle of their abdominal segments (3).

Also known as
Oasis skimmer.
Male abdomen length: 36 - 42 mm (2)
Female abdomen length: 35 - 40 mm (2)
Male hindwing: 35 - 40 mm (2)
Female hindwing: 38 - 40mm (2)

Slender skimmer biology

There is very little specific information available about the biology of the slender skimmer. Like all dragonflies, the slender skimmer starts its life as an aquatic larva or nymph, and passes through a series of developmental stages or ‘stadia’, and undergoes several moults as it grows (5).

The length of the larval stage varies between species, although it may range from a few weeks to several years. The larva emerges from its final moult having metamorphosed into an adult dragonfly with characteristic features such as wings and enlarged compound eyes (5). The wings of the newly emerged adult expand and harden rapidly, enabling flight soon after the final moult (5) (6).

After emergence, the adult dragonfly leaves the water and spends anything from a few days to several months feeding and maturing. It is in this maturation period where the dragonfly normally develops its full adult colour (5).

Although little is known specifically about reproduction in the slender skimmer, there is often fierce competition between male dragonflies for access to reproductive females. Females typically begin to lay eggs in water immediately after copulation, often guarded by the male. However, females of some dragonfly species can store live sperm in their body for a number of days (5).

The slender skimmer is renowned for feeding on other dragonfly species, including some species larger than itself (7).


Slender skimmer range

An extremely widespread species, the slender skimmer occurs from south-eastern Europe to Japan and south to Australia and Micronesia (1).


Slender skimmer habitat

The slender skimmer occupies a broad range of slow-flowing and still water habitats, from ponds to wet rice fields and marshes. It is very tolerant of disturbance (1), and will sometimes occupy temporary water sources (3).


Slender skimmer status

The slender skimmer is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Slender skimmer threats

There are currently no threats to the slender skimmer, which is a common species with an ability to thrive in disturbed habitats (1).


Slender skimmer conservation

There are currently no specific conservation measures known to be in place for the slender skimmer (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

To find out more about the conservation of dragonflies and damselflies see:



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This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.


In arthropods (crustaceans, insects and arachnids) the abdomen is the hind region of the body, which is usually segmented to a degree (but not visibly in most spiders).
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
In insects, a stage of growth whereby the hard outer layer of the body (the exoskeleton) is shed and the body becomes larger
Stage of insect development, similar in appearance to the adult but sexually immature and without wings. The adult form is reached via a series of moults, and the wings develop externally as the nymph grows.
Part of the body located between the head and the abdomen in animals. In insects, the three segments between the head and the abdomen, each of which has a pair of legs. In vertebrates the thorax contains the heart and the lungs.


  1. IUCN Red List (2010, April)
  2. Watson, J.A. (1984) A second Australian species in the Orthetrum sabina complex (Odonata: Libellulidae). Australian Journal of Entomology, 23(1): 1-10.
  3. Theischinger, G., and Hawking, J. (2006) The Complete Field Guide to Dragonflies of Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Australia.
  4. Subramanian, K.A. (2005)Dragonflies and Damselflies of Peninsular India - A Field Guide. Project Lifescape, Indian Institute of Science and Indian Academy of Sciences, India.
  5. O’Toole, C. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Insects and Their Allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Moore, N.W. (Ed.) (1997) Dragonflies - Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Odonata Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
  7. Silsby, J. (2001) Dragonflies of the World. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.

Image credit

Slender skimmer  
Slender skimmer

© Seyed Bagher Mousavi

Majid Alavy
Tel: +989166077759


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